American Literature: Beginnings to 1900
MWF 10:30 a.m.-11:50 a.m.
In this American literature survey, we will investigate the theme of captivity across genres and time periods, up to the year 1900.
Pushing on the connotations of captive and captivate, we will examine how individual and collective anxieties about being held captive or becoming captivated shift across the centuries, from discovery and exploration (“captivating” lands and peoples) and thralldom to the divine (Pilgrim voyages and Puritan devotion) to physical bondage (“Indian captivity narratives” and slave/freedom narratives), restraints in various aspects of public life (political treatises or the domestic confinement of women), and transformative captivation (powerful poetry, scary short stories, Transcendentalism). As we trace ways in which Americans have been obsessed with captivity, we will also develop a critical vocabulary related to other key themes, terms, practices, interpretive strategies, and debates in American Studies and the discipline of English—all while paying particular attention to the functions of social categories such as race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, class and citizenship, national identity and Christian identity in American literature.